Meat Cutter Training, Course and Certification Information
Meat cutters use hand tools and power equipment, such as meat slicers, knives and bandsaws, to butcher various types of meat. They then package this meat for sale in retail environments. Meat cutters typically learn their trade through apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training.
Meat Cutter Apprenticeships
Apprenticeship programs for meat cutters combine classroom-based coursework with hands-on training. Apprentices typically learn to handle the various types of equipment, including cleavers and power cutters, that are needed to cut and ration pieces of meat. Aspiring meat cutters also are taught to break down and process both portions of meat and complete carcasses, including whole cattle and hogs, into retail-ready food products. Additionally, they might train in specialty skills such as sausage making, which involves blending raw meat products with spices. Certificates sometimes are awarded to those who complete meat cutter apprenticeship programs.
Students must be at least 18 years old to enroll in a meat cutter apprenticeship program, although they might not need a high school diploma or GED. Aspiring meat cutters should be prepared for physical labor since they will be required to lift heavy meat products.
Meat cutter apprenticeship programs generally cover food processing, mathematics and customer service. Specific courses might include:
- Meat cooking
- Meat packaging
- Seafood processing
- Customer service practices
- Business math
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for food processing occupations, including butchers and meat cutters, was forecast to grow eight percent in the decade spanning 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). The largest number of meat cutters and butchers were employed with grocers. As of May 2012, butchers and meat cutters earned a mean annual salary of $30,000, based on BLS figures.
Even for those who have completed an apprenticeship program, on-the-job training is an essential part of a beginning a career as a meat cutter. New hires typically work side-by-side with industry professionals to cut, handle and process raw meats, in addition to learning to operate in a retail environment. There is no industry-wide certification for meat cutters. However, they may need to meet state or local licensure requirements.
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